Insights

Developing a growth mindset

Startup operators share their top takeaways from our first Growth Chapter

By

Folklore Ventures

July 22, 2022

What is ‘growth’ and what do startup operators need to know about it? How do you land a job working in growth at a startup? We sat down with three alumni of our inaugural Growth Chapter: Paloma (marketing at StartGiving), Brad (growth at ProductEngine) and Michael (creative at Hnry and CarClarity) to dive into all things growth and how they are applying insights from the program to scale ANZ’s success-stories-in-the-making. 

Firstly, what led you to apply for Growth Chapter? Why growth? 

Michael: I’ve covered a lot of the ground available within the creative and content space in the Aussie startup and media landscape, so the next logical step was looking into how to pull the levers that help accelerate the work I do. Basically I wanted to grow my growth knowledge bank so I could effectively argue for higher creative budgets from my founders (lol).  

Paloma: Following a 7-year career in hospitality, which included opening pop-ups with celebrity chefs, I hung up my apron and started working with big ad agencies to build out strategies for multinational corporations. After a few years, I moved into the world of startups. While building out a marketing department for Sydney based self-driving car startup Baraja as their first full time marketing hire, I was then approached by a new organisation called StartGiving – a startup not-for-profit funded by AirTree's co-founder, Daniel Petre. The goal is to funnel millions of new dollars from the tech world into the charity space to help solve some of the world's biggest issues. That's what I'm focused on at the moment - building the marketing function to support that huge mission.  

Brad: Business transformation, customer relationships, and design have always mattered to me the most. Seeking exposure and being able to contribute to all three naturally led me to growth. And, right now, ProductEngine is aiming to become a key tool for companies globally, as digital transformation extends to product and pricing data. We're ramping-up our go-to-market efforts as we speak – so the Growth Chapter timing could not have been better!

What are three insights that stood out to you during the live sessions? 

Michael: 

  1. These two statements can co-exist: 1. there's a fundamental book of growth theory you should know and understand, AND 2. you also need to throw that book out asap.
  2. The tool-kit for growth practitioners is way bigger than I ever thought (but understanding it all is a REAL stretch so don’t feel bad if you can’t).
  3. If you don't know what your end goal is with A/B testing, then you're wasting everyone’s time and complicating things. 

Paloma: 

  1. Content is still king - it just has to be worth consuming.
  2. Knowing who you're talking to is the most important thing you can do.
  3. Not everything is science. Trust your gut, but also let go of your ego and be ready to ditch even your 'best' ideas when they're not working.

Brad: 

  1. Start with generalists to identify the path, and then embrace specialists to perform their best work. This applies to so many areas of a company that wants to move as fast as possible.
  2. Contextualise attribution. For example, you might record the 'number of deals closed' at a trade-show - but customers didn't buy that very day! Get the sequencing right for attribution.
  3. Compound growth. Rather than just leveraging pay-per-click, or social ads, think about how you can own more of your acquisition. 

What are some of your favourite startup growth successes? Who inspires you? 

Michael: Milkrun have found a really efficient way to use content to get their value prop out there in a way you just can’t ignore. 

Paloma: I think there are so many examples of companies that have done growth well... Sendle, Hotdoc, Mr Yum, Who Gives a Crap...Australia is brimming with great ideas and excellent operators. 

Brad: Gong.io is a SaaS company that's absolutely nailed organic growth led by product-driven SEO. The data that informs their content comes directly from the usage of the platform. That content (backed-up by platform usage data) then delivers real insights for who they're targeting.

In what ways did the program challenge your previous beliefs (or misconceptions) about growth?

Michael: It really reaffirmed my belief that I have no idea what I'm doing and I need to listen to, and learn from, as many people as possible of all skill levels. 

Paloma: I was concerned that the program was going to include ethic-less strategies that tap into the psychology of gambling in order to force people to view your content and become addicted to their feed... and it didn’t. I think growth gets a good rep in the marketing world, and a bad rep in other departments. There was a clear consensus in the talks that growth needs to be in line with the business as a moving organism. A bit of healthy tension is good, but you can't force a square through a circle. 

Brad: That you don't need to tap on the shoulder of your developer resources to get things moving and connect the tech stack. Just learning some basic SQL (Structured Query Language) and Python is the best way to consistently optimise the growth tools/platforms being used.

If you could recommend one resource to startup operators who are interested in levelling up their understanding of growth, what would it be? 

Michael: Effortlessly is a really great performance creative inspiration tool. It clearly lays out creatives in easy to search formats, to help bootstrapping founders attempt to make their own designs on Canva if they don’t have a creative team.

Paloma: Neha's hypothesis and testing framework, as well as Daniel's tech stack framework and thinking. 

Brad: There's a video by Katelyn Bourgoin on Customer Camp called 'Why Do Customers REALLY Buy?' The crux of it: obsess about 'jobs to be done' and use direct messaging and communication. Full credit goes to Ati in tribe 1 for sharing this! 

Any tips or advice for others considering a career in growth? 

Michael: If you’re looking for a mentor, pester a stranger on LinkedIn that you admire and one of them will eventually give you some time. If you’re any good, they’ll probably hire you or know someone who should. 

Paloma: Do Growth Chapter - it will help push you in the right direction! 

Brad: Progress over perfection.

Finally, for anyone considering Growth Chapter 2023, how would you describe the experience? Will you be doing anything differently in your current and future roles? 

Michael: All encompassing - providing actionable advice for growth newbie bootstrappers all the way to Series A Heads Of Growth. It’s given my thinking on growth like +3 wisdom and +4 impact points.

Paloma: It exceeded my expectations. I think one of the best things that I re-learnt was that not everything works, so just keep hypothesising and testing... basically we're all making it up, all the time. 

Brad: Growth Chapter was one of the most dynamic and thought-provoking content deep-dives in my career to date. Looking ahead, I’m seeing a stack more user research, and trying to get the basics of SQL to start with!!

Growth Chapter is an immersive, community-driven program for ambitious founders and operators. To be the first to know about Growth Chapter 2023, add your name to the waitlist here.

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